UK airports ‘will suffer £4bn pandemic hit’, industry body warns


UK airports will suffer a £4 billion hit from lost revenue this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, an industry body has warned.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) said nearly £2 billion was lost in the four-month period between March and June alone, which is equivalent to around £15 million each day.

It anticipates that the finances of its members will continue to suffer throughout the rest of the year, putting up to 110,000 jobs at risk at airports and their supply chains.

Passenger numbers have fallen by as much as 99% during the crisis, with demand for travel collapsing and restrictions being introduced by governments around the world.

Heathrow said just 350,000 people travelled through the airport last month, down 95% on June 2019.

ACI Europe, which represents European airports, recently predicted that passenger numbers will not recover until 2024.

The AOA and airport chief executives have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on him to take urgent action to help the aviation industry.

They noted that the aviation industry has been “denied the kind of targeted support afforded to other sectors”.

The AOA wants relief from business rates for 2020/21 in line with support given to the hospitality and retail sectors, help with meeting employment costs when the furlough scheme ends, and the suspension of Air Passenger Duty for at least six months to stimulate demand.

AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “These projections reinforce the significant challenges that UK airports continue to face after the worst four months in the history of commercial aviation.

“Whilst we have seen passengers begin to return, passenger numbers are not expected to reach pre-Covid levels for a considerable period and airports will continue to face challenges and pressures unimaginable six months ago.

“Airports have done everything in their power to weather the storm and have done so without the specific Government support afforded to other sectors.

“That our airports lost close to £2 billion during the lockdown should serve as a wake-up call to Government and lead them to finally grasp the severity of the challenge and threat that the pandemic has posed and continues to pose to the sector.

“We cannot have a full national economic recovery without a thriving aviation sector.”